The Chicago Bulls endured a disappointing 2007-08, but an offseason filled with excitement - and the selection of a local product as the No. 1 pick in the draft - followed.
On Tuesday, the Bulls will try to carry that excitement over into the new regular season.
After finishing with the third-best record in the Eastern Conference in 2006-07, Chicago had high expectations for last season. However, it finished 33-49 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2003-04.
Interim coach Jim Boylan was not retained, leaving Bulls general manager John Paxson in search of a new coach shortly after the regular season. The eventual hiring of first-year coach Vinny Del Negro out of Phoenix’s front office turned out to be just one of two big offseason decisions.
On May 20, Chicago hit the NBA draft lottery jackpot despite 1.7 percent odds. Just over a month later, the Bulls selected Rose, who went to high school on Chicago’s South Side, over Kansas State forward Michael Beasley with the top overall selection.
Chicago had witnessed what talented young point guards like New Orleans’ Chris Paul and Utah’s Deron Williams can accomplish, and felt it could not pass up on Rose, who led Memphis to the NCAA championship game in his lone college season.
Rose will try to improve an offense that finished last in the league in field goal shooting (43.5 percent) and 18th in scoring (97.3 points per game) in 2007-08.
“Derrick is unique with his athleticism and things he can do,” Del Negro said. “As he becomes more comfortable, we’ll give him more information and more terminology and more sets.”
Rose seemed plenty comfortable in the preseason, averaging 13.9 points, 5.0 assists and 3.3 turnovers in eight games.
“He’s going to make guys better,” said Luol Deng, whose 17.0 scoring average ranked second on the Bulls last season.
Ben Gordon, who averaged a team-high 18.6 points in 2007-08, is expected to play Tuesday after sitting out seven preseason games because of a jammed left big toe.
There will be a familiar face on the opposing team’s bench at the United Center in the opener. Skiles coached the Bulls from the midst of the 2003-04 season until he was fired last Christmas Eve, after Chicago struggled to a 9-16 start.
In April, the Bucks hired Skiles to take over a team that went 26-56 last season - third-worst in the East.
The team he inherits will look noticeably different. Mo Williams, Desmond Mason, Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons are all gone, replaced by forward Richard Jefferson, point guard Luke Ridnour and draft picks Joe Alexander and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.
The newcomers will try to complement guard Michael Redd, the Bucks’ scoring leader for five consecutive seasons.
“It’s a competitive mindset we have to have,” Skiles said. “We’ve got some habits maybe from guys that have been here that we have to change. Fortunately, we have a lot of new guys that have come from other places that are eager to win.”
Skiles is known as a defensive-oriented coach, and the Bucks need to improve on that side of the floor. Last season, Milwaukee ranked 23rd in the league in scoring defense (103.9 ppg).
“It’s a matter of us all pulling together, believing in his system and working to see how quickly we can get our chemistry right,” said Jefferson, who spent his first seven seasons with New Jersey and averaged a career-best 22.6 points in 2007-08.
Redd has averaged 30.6 points in 11 games against Chicago since the start of the 2005-06 season, but the Bucks have gone only 3-9 versus the Bulls during that same stretch.
The Bulls have won five straight home games over the Bucks, and 12 of the last 14 meetings between the teams at the United Center.